San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

5 Sneaky Fantasy Football Plays for Week 5

Mike Shara

This week there are a few opportunities that could come to pass for fantasy football’s lesser-known players. Some of them are names you know but maybe forgot about or thought they would be irrelevant this year and some of them are guys that fans and fantasy junkies alike had never heard of. Either way, we always like to try to find you some success in the margins in this column. Some gambles pay off and some don’t, but in the last week before Bye Weeks begin, successful fantasy football players are going to have to look for points in places they previously didn’t think they would. 

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Here is one player at each position that might go under the radar, but could end up being a big part of your winning lineup this week:

QUARTERBACK – Trey Lance, San Francisco
Real talk here – this is a bit of a Hail Mary. Sunday will mark Lance’s first-ever NFL start as erstwhile starter Jimmy Garoppolo recovers from yet another injury and he’s starting against the NFL’s only remaining unbeaten team. Keep in mind that the 49ers sacrificed a LOT of draft capital to move up in this year’s draft and select Lance, so he absolutely is the guy Kyle Shanahan wanted in there sooner or later. Shanahan’s playbook probably contains pages and pages of plays that were waiting for whenever Lance took over the starting job – he can do things athletically that Jimmy G just can’t. I look for him to energize a middling Niners offense, doing things that the Cardinals can’t prepare for because they’ll have no tape on him. San Fran might not win this game, but he could put up big numbers in the air and on the ground. If you’ve been frustrated so far with a guy like Ryan Tannehill or Kirk Cousins as your starter, this might be the right guy to make a switch for.

RUNNING BACK – Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia
The Eagles’ expected RB1 Miles Sanders has underwhelmed over 2021’s first four games. Gainwell, a rookie fifth round pick, has been seeing a higher percentage of the action in Philly’s backfield each week of the young season (now up to almost 40% of snaps last week vs. KC) and has acquitted himself very well when given an opportunity (last week: 31 yards and a TD on just 3 rushes, 6 receptions on 8 targets for 58 yards). He has clearly emerged as the team’s only other relevant running back and if Sanders continues to tread water (averaging just over 40 rush yards per game), Gainwell is positioned to become even more relevant as the season continues. If he gets more reps, maybe quarterback Jalen Hurts doesn’t finish the season as the team’s leading rusher.

TIGHT END – Dalton Schultz, Dallas
He quietly caught over 60 passes last season despite Dak Prescott missing most of 2020 with an injury, and with Dak back he is on an even better pace, having already scored three touchdowns and caught 20 passes. Last week vs. Carolina he appeared in about 80% of the Cowboys’ offensive plays. He was targeted 8 times during the Panthers game while fellow tight end Blake Jarwin saw just 1 target. Schultz is only owned in about ⅔ of leagues in most fantasy formats and looks to have a very favorable matchup this week against a Giants’ defense that has allowed the fourth-most points to tight ends in the NFL so far this season. I like him better than bigger names like Kyle Pitts and Hunter Henry for this week.

WIDE RECEIVER – Kadarius Toney, NY Giants
The Giants’ offense has discretely been excellent so far this season, ranking 7th overall in the league by averaging 282 yards per game and are coming off their best game yet, with over 400 passing yards in a road game vs. New Orleans. Toney, a 2021 first round pick out of Florida, is becoming a bigger part of that improving squad every week. Last week he was targeted 9 times and made 6 receptions for 78 yards. He was involved in almost 80% of the G-Men’s offensive sets last week, after appearing in less than 10% of them in Week One. Two other key Giants wide receivers are already questionable for Sunday’s game vs. Dallas with injuries, who have the NFL’s second-worst pass defense to this point of the season. He’s only owned in about 5% of fantasy leagues as of today. I’m warning you now that his ownership number will continue to rise as the season wears on. This weekend could very well be when he starts coming into everyone else in your league’s consciousness. You may want to get ahead of them.

DEFENSE – New England
The Patriots have a 1-3 record and just announced they have released Pro Bowl defensive back Stephon Gilmore, so why am I listing them here as a must-own defense this week? Because I’m trying to screw with you. No, seriously – it’s because it is a marquee matchup opportunity. Despite their disappointing record so far, New England’s defense is elite – 6th overall in points allowed thus far despite Gilmore not playing all season due to injury – and will be hungry after a close home loss vs. a very good Tampa Bay team on Sunday night. Houston has a bottom 6 offense in rushing yards, passing yards and points scored and have several key offensive players injured. They are already playing for next year’s first overall draft pick. This is almost like a spa day for a defensive team. The only chance the Texans outfox a pissed-off Bill Belichick this week is if they can build a time machine in order to bring back peak Warren Moon, Earl Campbell and Ernest Givens to all play in Houston again this weekend.

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